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Why Jesus Was Betrayed for Thirty Pieces of Silver

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Most Christians know that Jesus was betrayed and sold for thirty pieces of silver. However, not many people know the significance of that amount. Learn why it was thirty pieces of silver and not some other amount.

Jesus and the Thirty Pieces of Silver

Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with all of His disciples for the final time. Before that occasion, Judas Iscariot had gone to the chief priests and asked them what they would give him for betraying Jesus. They handed him thirty pieces of silver, and Judas accepted the coins (Matthew 26:15).

During the celebration, Jesus said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. ... Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon” (John 13:21-22, 26).

Jesus knew His time on earth was coming to an end. Therefore, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray that same night. After He had finished praying, Judas appeared with soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus. Judas let the soldiers know who to arrest by giving Jesus a kiss.

When all the chief priests and elders decided to put Jesus to death, Judas was filled with remorse and attempted to return the money. He took the thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders. He admitted he had sinned by betraying the innocent blood of Jesus. He threw the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:1-5).

The chief priests and elders did not accept the coins because they considered them to be blood money. Instead, Potter's field was bought with the coins as a burial place for outcasts.

Thirty pieces of silver were the price Zechariah received for his labor, according to Zechariah 11:12–13. The payment was an assessment of what was thought about his worth. Therefore, he took the coins and threw them "to the potter."


Joseph Was Sold for Twenty Pieces of Silver

Long before Jesus was sold for the price of a slave, Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver because that was the going price for a slave at that time. The price of a slave had not gone up that much after thousands of years between the time of Joseph and the time of Jesus.

First, Joseph's jealous brothers attempted to kill him. They put him in a pit and had planned to tell Jacob that his favorite son had been killed by an animal. At that exact time, some Ishmaelites were passing by. Judah thought twice about killing Joseph and proposed that he be sold. The other brothers agreed, and the traders paid twenty pieces of silver for Joseph.

Why were twenty pieces of silver handed over to the brothers? Was it all of the loose change the men had with them? Or was there something significant about that amount?


Hosea Bought His Wife Back for Fifteen Pieces of Silver

Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver. Earlier, Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver. In between those two times, and in between those two prices, there was another person who had a price for her worth. Yes, there was a woman and her husband had to pay fifteen pieces of silver to buy her back from prostitution.

Hosea is the first of the twelve minor prophets listed in the Bible. He is often thought of as a "prophet of doom," but his book is a promise of restoration. God commanded him to marry Gomer, a known prostitute. Hosea knew his wife would be unfaithful, but he followed God's command.

Their marriage was an object lesson that was symbolic of how Israel was unfaithful to God and God kept taking the nation back and loving it despite its sin of idolatry. Whenever Gomer was unfaithful to her husband, God tells Hosea to buy her back again, bring her home, and love her tenderly. Hosea buys her back for fifteen shekels and a quantity of barley (Hosea 3:1).


Final Words

  • Joseph was sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver.
  • Gomer was bought back for fifteen pieces of silver.
  • Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver.

All the trivial amounts placed on Joseph and Jesus were equivalent to the value of a slave at that particular time. The time for Gomer's release came between the time of Joseph and Jesus. The price for her was lower because she was a woman.

Whose Amount?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How much was Jesus betrayed for?
    • 15 pieces of silver
    • 20 pieces of silver
    • 30 pieces of silver
  2. How much was Joseph sold for?
    • 15 pieces of silver
    • 20 pieces of silver
    • 30 pieces of silver
  3. How much was Gomer bought back for?
    • 15 pieces of silver
    • 20 pieces of silver
    • 30 pieces of silver

Answer Key

  1. 30 pieces of silver
  2. 20 pieces of silver
  3. 15 pieces of silver

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